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NYPD raids nab scores of West Harlem gang members, officials say

New York County District Attorney Cy Vance, left,

New York County District Attorney Cy Vance, left, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, right, at a press conference at One Police Plaza in Manhattan announce the arrest of dozens of alleged gang members on June 4, 2014. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Scores of reputed street gang members who have allegedly plagued West Harlem for decades with "mindless" turf violence were rounded up Wednesday in Manhattan in what officials said was the largest case of its kind in city history.

In a series of early morning raids, NYPD detectives, sometimes with Commissioner William Bratton in tow, hit several locations and nabbed 40 suspects as part of a 100-defendant gang indictment. The move was aimed at three notorious street crews who for years have afflicted the Manhattanville and Grant houses with bloody warfare that led to 10 slayings, officials said.

"These three gangs were not sophisticated drug trafficking organizations. Far from it. They were young people protecting their territories from imaginary threats and avenging the murders of fellow gang members," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said.

Fifty illegal guns were used in the shootings, sometimes carried by children as young as 10, said Vance, who noted that the youngest defendant in the case was 15. Charges in the 145-count indictment include conspiracy to commit murder, weapons possession and conspiracy to commit gang assault.

Vance said the neighborhood is one of the most violent in Manhattan.

One of innocent victims in the feuding was Tayshana "Chicken" Murphy, an 18-year-old high school basketball star who was fatally shot at Grant Houses in 2011, Vance said. Two suspected gang members have been convicted in her death, Vance said.

But in a twist, Vance said one of Murphy's brothers is alleged in the indictment to have been a member of the 3Staccs gang4. Other gangs named in the indictment include Make it Happen Boys and Money Avenue.

Vance said the latest indictment shows "how families are losing their children, potentially to prison and perhaps to an early grave."

The violence listed in the indictment covers a period from January 2010 to May 31, 2014, when there was a shooting on 126th Street in West Harlem, investigators said. Investigators with the NYPD and Vance's office broke the case after a coordinated intelligence operation that used hundreds of Facebook posts, cellphone videos, and calls made from the Rikers Island Correctional Facility to plot deaths of rival gang members, Vance said.

Bratton said he met with detectives and police officers at the 33rd Precinct in upper Manhattan before the raids. The commissioner said he went out on two raids and remained down the hall with his security detail as cops executed the search warrants at the apartments.

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